Kirkoswald is an Ancient Parish and a market town in the county of Cumberland.

Other places in the parish include: Staffield.

Alternative names: Kirk-Oswald

Parish church: St. Oswald

Parish registers begin:

  • Parish registers: 1577
  • Bishop’s Transcripts: 1663

Nonconformists include: Independent/Congregational and Wesleyan Methodist.

Table of Contents

Adjacent Parishes

Parish History

Kirkoswald The Old Market Square

The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales 1870

KIRKOSWALD, a village, a township, a parish, and a sub-district in Penrith district, Cumberland. The village stands dispersedly on the sides and crown of high ground, adjoining the influx of the Raven beck to the river Eden, 6 miles ENE of Plumpton r. station, and 8 NE by N of Penrith.

It takes its name from Oswald, the ancient canonized king of Northumbria; was burnt in 1314 by the Scots; was once a market town; is now a polling place; and has a post office under Penrith, and fairs on the Thursday before Whit-Monday and on 5 August.

The township comprises 5, 000 acres. Real property, £3, 524; of which £18 are in mines. Pop., 672. Houses, 154.

The parish contains also the township of Staffield, and comprises 10, 472 acres. Real property, £7, 372. Pop., 944. Houses, 194. The property is much subdivided. A castle was built on a hill, about a ¼ of a mile E of the village, by Ranulph d’Engain; passed to Hugh de Morville, one of the murderers of Thomas à Becket; descended to the Miltons, the Dacres, and the Musgraves; was pronounced by Sandford “the fairest fabric that ever he looked upon;’’ and has left some small remains.

The College and Staffield Hall are now chief residences; and the former occupies the site of a college for twelve priests, which was attached to the church, and was plundered by the parliamentary troops in the civil war. A six arched bridge, erected in 1762, spans the Eden; and a one arched bridge spans Raven beck. There are paper, corn, and saw mills.

The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Carlisle. Value, £176. Patron, the Lord Chancellor. The church stands at the base of a hill, a short way apart from the village; is approached through a fine avenue of lime trees; shows late Norman and early English characters, modified by restorations and alterations; consists of nave, aisles, and chancel, with two porches; was made collegiate in 1523, by T. Threlkeld; contains a tomb of Featherstonehaugh, who was beheaded in 1651; and includes a spring, which is supposed to have been formerly used for baptizing. The belfry connected with it stands on the hill above.

There are an Independent chapel built in 1866, a Wesleyan chapel, an endowed national school, and charities, £26.

Source: The Imperial Gazetteer of England & Wales [Wilson, John M]. A. Fullarton & Co. N. d. c. [1870-72].

A Topographical Dictionary of England 1848

KIRK-OSWALD (St. Oswald), a market-town and parish, in the union of Penrith, Leath ward, E. division of Cumberland; containing, with the township of Staffield, 948 inhabitants, of whom 691 are in the town, 15½ miles (S. E.) from Carlisle, and 292 (N. N. W.) from London.

This place, which derived its name from St. Oswald, the canonized king of Northumbria, was in 1314 burnt by the Scottish army. A collegiate establishment was founded in the church by Rowland Threlkeld, in 1523; at the Dissolution it possessed a revenue of £78. 17. The estates were granted by Elizabeth to the Dodding family, and subsequently to the Featherstonhaughs, of Northumberland, who have been settled here since the time of James I., and whose mansion, called The College, is a venerable structure, formerly the residence of the provost and fellows of the college.

It is romantically situated on a gentle eminence rising from the margin of the Raven beck, at a short distance from the town; and retains its ancient oriel window, and other interesting details of its original style. The mansion was plundered by the parliamentarian forces; and there is still preserved the copy of a petition presented to the parliament by the widow of Sir Timothy Featherstonhaugh, in which the loss is estimated at £10,000.

The town is seated on the east of the river Eden, over which a bridge of six arches was erected in 1762, and in a beautiful and fertile vale, inclosed by sloping hills, on whose acclivities the houses are neatly but irregularly built. The Raven beck, over which is a bridge of one arch, intersects the town; and the inhabitants are supplied with water from a reservoir at the market-cross.

Kirk-Oswald Castle, situated on a bold eminence about a quarter of a mile to the east of the town, was demolished by the Howards, who removed the furniture and the relics of antiquity which it contained to their castle of Naworth; the ruins, consisting only of one square tower and some dark vaults, have a romantic appearance, and are surrounded on all sides, except that which overlooks the Eden, by a deep fosse.

The market, granted in the 2nd year of the reign of King John, is on Thursday, and on Monday is a market for corn, established a few years since; the corn is pitched in the market-place. The fairs are on the Thursday before Whitsuntide, and August 5th, for cattle.

The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king’s books at £8, and in the patronage of the Crown; net income, £120; impropriator, T. Featherstonhaugh, Esq. The church, situated on the slope of an eminence to the south of the town, is an ancient structure in the early English style, with later additions, which were, perhaps, introduced on its enlargement, when made collegiate, in 1523; the tower is detached from the church, and on the summit of the eminence.

There are several monuments to the Featherstonhaugh family, among which is one of marble to Sir Timothy, who, for his attachment to the royal cause, was beheaded at Chester, in 1651. Some beautiful stained glass, recently put up, embellishes the windows. The west window, which is lancet-shaped, is divided into two compartments, containing, beneath a decorated canopy, figures of St. Peter and St. Paul; the eastern window is divided into six compartments, the centre representing the Crucifixion, the others the Four Evangelists, St. Oswald, and St. Cuthbert.

In the side windows are depicted the arms of the nobility and gentry who are or have been resident, or who have held possessions, in the district. There are a place of worship for Wesleyans in the town, and one for Independents at Park-head, near the eastern extremity of the parish. On the side of a hill, in a field about one mile from the town, are two cairns of moderate size.

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis 1848

Parish Records

FamilySearch Catalog

The Memorial inscriptions of Kirkoswald, Renwick, Addingham & Gamblesby, volume 2 Author: Godwin, Jeremy; Clarke, Pat

The Memorial inscriptions of melmerby, Ousby, kirkland, Skirwith & Culgaith, also, addenda to Croglin, Cumrew, Edenhall, Gamblesby, Kirkoswald, & Renwick, volume 4 Author: Godwin, Jeremy; Clarke, Pat; Smith, Alan

Census returns for Kirkoswald, 1841-1891

The ancient church registers of the parish of Kirkoswald, Cumberland : baptisms, marriages, burials, 1577-1812 Author: Thornley, John James

Bishop’s transcripts for Kirkoswald, 1666-1863

Church records, 1641-1786 Author: Church of England. Parish Church of Kirkoswald (Cumberland)

Parish registers for Kirkoswald, 1580-1980

Computer printout of Huddlesceugh, Meeting House Independent, Cumb., Eng

Computer printout of Kirkoswald, Cumb., Eng


  • County: Cumberland
  • Civil Registration District: Penrith
  • Probate Court: Court of the Bishop of Carlisle (Episcopal Consistory)
  • Diocese: Carlisle
  • Rural Deanery: Allerdale
  • Poor Law Union: Penrith
  • Hundred: Leath Ward
  • Province: York

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